New York Times–bestselling author Maya Banks trained as an emergency medical technician before she realized she’d rather write about drama and angst than be in the middle of it. Switching to writing and getting her start with digital publishing, she has enjoyed success in the romance genre, among others.
What prompted you to self-publish, and when did you start?
I got my start in digital publishing. I was able to write and publish several books with my digital publisher before my first book with Penguin ever hit the shelves. My hope was to hit it hard and fast and get as much of a backlist up and established before the Penguin book released so that when readers looked me up or went to my website, they’d see all these other books I’d already published and buy those as well. And it worked quite well.
Self-publishing was simply a natural progression and a logical conclusion. As for what prompted me to self-publish, it boils down to me being prepared at all times in a very volatile market and profession. Careers change daily; what’s hot today is dead tomorrow. An author is never guaranteed a career in longevity.
So I like to keep my options open, and I like having as many fallback options as possible. I like the duality of traditional and self-publishing. I like the freedom of self-publishing because there are no constraints on content, word count, whether it fits neatly into an established genre, or if it’s a mix of a half-dozen genres. But then I don’t adhere to there being rules in traditional publishing, either. I guess it’s the rebel in me. The only rule that matters in publishing, regardless of whether you self-publish or contract with a major print publisher, is “write a good book,” period.
Please describe your career arc and your successes.
To be honest, a large portion of my success has simply been a case of being in the right place at the right time. One example, for instance, is that the week the New York Times added a digital bestseller list, I released a digital-only title. As a result, I was the first author to ever hit the New York Times with a digital-only book. Had I released even a few weeks later, that likely would not have been the case.
How much of your work do you sell through e-books? How has that worked for you?
I don’t know the exact figures, but I can say with assurance that my digital sales far surpass my print sales, and it’s been that way my entire career, perhaps because I began my career in digital publishing, so I always had a large digital readership even when my print books started releasing with Penguin (and later multiple other traditional publishers).
What is your advice to other writers considering self-publishing?
Readers will buy anything once for 99 cents and you can be an instant bestselling author. The question isn’t whether readers will buy your first book. It’s whether they’ll buy your second or third. This is why it’s critical to always publish your very best effort and make it the best book you can possibly make it. There is a vast sea of self-published authors, and readers have plenty of books to choose from. So you’ve only got one shot to hook them, reel them in, and establish a following that grows with each ensuing release. Be mindful and respectful of your readers. Accept that not everyone is going to love your story. When a reader buys a product, they have every right to say whatever they want about something they plunked down the cash for. Be gracious. Always acknowledge your readers’ roles in your success because without them you’re nothing.
Poornima Apte is a Boston-area freelance writer and editor with a passion for books.